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  1. #1
    A fountain of knowledge
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    Default Digitisation of Records in South Africa

    Hello folks,

    Having learnt that my relatives were in Pochtefstroom, and that this was a city of educational establishments, I got to wondering about how things were progressing in the field of digitisation of records. In Australia lots of libraries are loading digitised material on the internet. Not so much the local libraries, but universities, state and national level libraries. Is anyone aware of this happening in South Africa?

    I tried having a look at a university library in Pochtefstroom, but I was rather defeated by the Afrikaans. I could see a reference to digital records, but when I clicked on the "Translate this page", the reference to digital records disappeared in the English version, and after trying another couple of places I gave up. Has anyone any insights into progress of digitisation in the larger libraries?

    Best wishes,

    Lenore Frost

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    Super Moderator Sue Mackay's Avatar
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    As far as I am aware nothing like this is happening, and the archives in Cape Town have even gone backwards in banning digital cameras. This is one reason why volunteers are busy transcribing records for eggsa, and why I had such an ecstatic reaction to my newspaper transcriptions of the Grahamstown Journal and South African Commercial Advertiser. Sadly those only go up to the 1850s as originals at Kew stop at this point. However, you can order films of quite a lot of South African registers and other records via your local FHS library.
    Sue Mackay
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  3. #3
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    Hi Sue,

    I can understand the ecstatic reaction! Well done. Efforts by individuals and groups of volunteers can build up a body of work over a period of time, so I congratulate you and encourage others to see how they might help. I've worked on a number of indexes over the years, the most hilarious effort (in retrospect, not at the time) was when I offered to help typing up handwritten transcriptions of gravestones at the Melbourne General Cemetery. I thought I was going to whizz through it - but they sent me the Greek section! I had to painstakingly reproduce Greek letters one at a time. As I don't have any Greek letters on my keyboard, I can't even figure out how I did it now. Quite a long time ago. I expect I was using F Keys or something. No idea.

    Following my own line of thought about digitised records, I suddenly remembered the growing body of digitised books and journals, which are accessible through Google Books. You can narrow down the search terms quite usefully in the Advanced Search. I stumbled over a very interesting bunch books under the title "Asiatic Journal and Monthly Register for British and Foreign India, China and Australasia". The dates seem to be mainly from the 1830s to the 1840s, and despite the reference to India, China and Australasia, includes some very nice material about South Africa - for instance registers of Births, Deaths and Marriages in Cape Town. Too early for me, and in the wrong place, but may be of interest to others.

    Just as an aside, I don't suppose the Cape Town archives has some sort of body which includes community representatives, or user representatives? Sounds like someone needs to get on it and give them a bit of a rev up. Get them to answer the question as to whom they are serving?

    Best wishes,

    Lenore

  4. #4
    Coromandel
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    Google found this list of Digitization Initiatives in South Africa, listed alphabetically by institution, and covering many different fields of research. Unfortunately most seem to be only at the planning stage.

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    HI Coromandel,

    That was an ingenious find. I think that the unfortunate part about it is the number of institutions that are going to restrict access to "Members only" or "Archivist only". They are public institutions and need to get up to speed on world's best practice in providing more universal access for scholars all over the world. As the funding is being provided by the Carnegie Corporation, I wonder if they could be persuaded to encourage these institututions accepting funding to look a bit further than their own belly-button?

    Some of the collections look extremely useful to family historians (not convinced about digitising casts of teeth, however), and many are owned apparently by various city corporations. I daresay they are not going to pay too much attention to non-ratepayers complaining, but maybe the members of those libraries could be making a few more demands on them to provide internet access to digital collections? I'd better not assume that no-one has been agitating for better access in South Africa, because I am sure they have, but I wonder if other more international potential users could be raising this with Carnegie?

    Best wishes,

    Lenore

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